I hope JuJu Smith-Schuster was sitting down when he heard he was getting kicked out of the club.
The Superstar Club, of course, the arbitrary list of ‘superstar’ players at each position that Dan Hanzus curates year after year for the league’s own website. It’s nice, at least, that he was in it at all, even if his tenure of one year proved to be brief.
The Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver was admitted entry following his breakout sophomore season in 2018, during which he caught 111 passes for 1426 yards and seven touchdowns. That was already building off of a strong rookie year that saw him catch 58 passes for 917 yards and even scores.
“We still love JuJu here at The Superstar Club — we really do”, Hanzus writes. “Don’t be surprised if the 23-year-old (yup, he’s really still that young) delivers a strong bounce-back season in Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger healthy”.
In 2019, Smith-Schuster suffered a toe injury in the season opener that would linger throughout the year. 10 games in, he would simultaneously suffer a concussion and a knee injury, the latter of which would keep him out the next four games and limit him in the two games he would play after returning.
Combine that with the absence of Roethlisberger—and the fact that he was replaced by Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges—and you have the ingredients for disappointment. He finished the year with just 42 catches for 552 yards and three touchdowns, a fraction of what was expected.
“His 2019 was a lost cause, as he dealt with both a lingering toe injury and the creative stylings of Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges, but JuJu also struggled to separate against top corners and had some issues with drops”, Hanzus wrote.
“He didn’t look comfortable in The Big Chair of the wide receiver room. It’s also fair to wonder if he’ll see an immense target volume with Diontae Johnson, James Washington and Eric Ebron in the mix for the Steelers in 2020”.
Hanzus confessed that “we probably jumped the gun on the Superstar designation” for Smith-Schuster, though at the same time, he was taken out to make room for Amari Cooper. “When we add someone to The Club, it is always done on a one-year probationary period, and JuJu’s 42/552/3 stat line could not be ignored. Here’s to rooting that he makes us look foolish for booting him out so quickly”.
In addition to Cooper, the other current members of the Superstar Club at wide receiver are Davante Adams, Odell Beckham, Jr., Mike Evans, Tyreek Hill (another addition, replacing Antonio Brown), DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones, and Michael Thomas.